Image: Conroe Mayor Toby Powell (left), who died on Saturday night, and his wife Vanessa Powell (right).
The Golden Hammer Staff Reports
Conroe, September 14 – When Mayor Toby Powell went into the arms of the Eternal Father on Saturday night, after a long bout with cancer and its complications, the City of Conroe lost a gentle soul and found itself in a political quandary. The political quandary is that controversial City Councilman Jody Czajkoski and Powell are the only names on the November 3, 2020, General Election ballot for Mayor of Conroe, and it is too late for anyone to file to join the race.
Powell had been under hospice care for the last week after fighting cancer for several years.
Longtime Conroe businessman Rigby Owen, Jr., said of Powell last night, “He was a good person. I’ve known him since we were kids. He had great character. He was a good businessman, an honest person, and a great mayor. Hopefully, he’ll get elected in November.” Owen, of course, referred to the fact that Powell will remain on the ballot despite his death.
Conroe Mayor Pro Tem and City Councilman Duke Coon told The Golden Hammer, “Toby Powell exemplified what it meant to be a public servant. I’m grateful to have served at his right hand. He taught me a lot about humility, honor, respect, and loyalty. Those things Mayor Powell taught me will last me the rest of my life.
Conroe City Councilman Duane Ham said, “I think Toby was a great Mayor. He was a fighter by nature, having been a boxer in his younger days. He fought with tenacity and always fought for Conroe. He fought to keep taxes low. He was openly conservative.” Ham added in reference to the ongoing dispute between the City of Conroe and the San Jacinto River Authority over water rights and water bill, “Toby Powell helped me to take on the biggest water fight we’ve had in Texas.”
Ham also noted that Powell fought cancer like the boxer he had been as a young man. “He never gave up,” Councilman Ham noted.
Coon asked this newspaper to make clear that “It’s important for citizens of Conroe to know that we’ll continue to move forward. The Council will collectively lead the City with no interruptions in service or leadership.”
Both Coon and Ham explained that the city has never had a mayor die in office. As Mayor Pro Tem, Coon will preside over the City Council and community events until Powell’s successor is sworn into office.
“We’ve lowered flags in Conroe to half staff,” said Coon. “We’ll keep them lowered until his internment later this week.”
Ham told The Golden Hammer that he and others are seeking to have Powell lay in state at City Hall until his memorial service.
Powell was a 1959 graduate of Conroe High School and attended Sam Houston State University. He worked as a homebuilder and developer for more than half a century.
Powell and his wife Vanessa have four sons, a daughter, and numerous grandchildren.
Mayor Powell served on the Conroe City Council in 1977 and 1978 and again in 2008 to 2012. He has served as Mayor Pro Tem from 2010 to 2012. He has been a Director on the Conroe Industrial Development Corporation from 2008 to the present. He also served as a Director on the Houston Galveston Area Council from 2008 to 2010.
The Powells are members of Mims Baptist Church and the Mayor was a Lifetime member of the Montgomery County Fair Association. He has also served for four years as Director and Vice Chairman of the Lone Star Family Health Clinic. Mayor Powell ws very active with the (Downtown) performing arts, such as the Annual Christmas event and many other organizations.
Powell’s death less than two months prior the mayoral election leaves the City of Conroe in a bit of a quandary. Councilman Jody Czajkoski is running a strong race, which he has run against Powell. Many citizens of Conroe have expressed deep reservations about Czajkoski’s candidacy. Czajkowski is heavily involved in real estate development and sales in downtown Conroe, through his company MHW Real Estate, so there is a strong perception that he may have serious conflicts of interest in serving as the City’s Mayor.
As Owen expressed above, many Conroe citizens remain hopeful that Powell will get a majority of the votes on November 3, so that the City will have to hold a special election thereafter.
This newspaper intends to interview Czajkowski, however, and provide him with a fair opportunity to address citizen concerns and to present his vision for the City of Conroe.